It was supposed to be a rare opportunity for the state to showcase its potential as an upcoming commercial hub in South Asia. However, commerce had to take a backseat in the world of politics.
Not one state government official was able to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting that began in Davos on Wednesday. Plans for the Switzerland trip were cancelled because it would have been fruitless sending a delegation when the chief minister had pulled out, according to a government official speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"We could not send the delegation to attend the Davos meeting as Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh cancelled his plans to lead the Maharashtra team," the official said. "Though Deshmukh had asked Chief Secretary DK Sankaran to lead the team, we were told that according to WEF protocol, only heads of states were to address the particular session. We had no option but to cancel the Davos plans."
A Deshmukh-led state delegation had been invited to host an event over breakfast on the opening day of the WEF annual meeting in Davos.
Though Deshmukh himself was quite keen on attending the meeting and had also prepared a presentation to sell the state as a preferred investment destination, he had to cancel his plans last week when his party, the Congress, asked him to instead campaign for the upcoming civic body elections.
Deshmukh explained the no-show by stressing the importance of elections in a democracy. "You have a responsibility towards the people. It makes sense at the time of elections to go to the people and explain to them what the government is doing," Deshmukh said. "And this is not the last opportunity for us. We have been marketing the state well."
Sankaran confirmed that he could not lead the state delegation to Davos but refused further comment. The state is seeking investments in its 75 proposed special economic zones, the information technology sector and an air cargo that is to come up at Nagpur. Officials were keen on Davos, as they would have got to hardsell the state to world leaders in business, politics, the academia and media.
However, a tough challenge ahead for the Congress in the civic body elections following its failure to forge an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party forced Deshmukh to stay back and campaign.
Wining the civic body elections, especially the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is crucial for the Congress. Since it was Deshmukh who had initiated the makeover plan for the city, the party wanted him to campaign for the civic polls.